I have a timed Gran Fondo this weekend and this is one of my A events this year. I have competed at Cat 1/2 level in the years prior to Covid but only managed 5 or 6 races last year and a few this year.
The course for the Gran Fondo is 120km and 2,100m climing. The route includes 4/5 main climbs which range from 12 - 20 mins with lots of rolling roads in between. There is a flatish section from 50 - 85km.
My question relates to pacing the climbs. My gut tells me that I should ride the climbs around treshold or just below and perhaps better letting solo or small groups up the road in the early stages. I have a road racing mentality which means never intentionally let wheels go and go into the red in order to remain in the bunch.
With the route being hilly there isn’t that much opportunity for pack riding in the first 50km and I am not even sure if groups form in Gran Fondo’s? Obviously some benefit and if a strong group is together from 42 - 80km then I would need to be there.
I am currently 4.22 w/kg and in decent shape and riding for prizes in the M40-49 category so hope to be competitive.
The route is below and advice appreciated from Gran Fondo riders.
Looks a great route!
Groups will definitely form. Being in a group 50-85ish k looks like it would be beneficial. It is worth having company for the flatter bits. The trick normally is making sure the group is the right level for you and doesn’t drive you too hard, but realistically I would think you will be one of the faster riders anyway so more likely to be the one driving it… Obviously there will be riders with more than 4.2 w/kg but they’ll be in a minority.
I would ride the climbs at around threshold as well.
Looks to me like you’ll probably have some big groups (depending on the size of the field) until “slaughter hill” where people will start to explode.
I had a very similar event earlier this year. My plan was exactly like yours.
But, it all kicked off hard off the gun, and to stay with the lead group of c.20 early on I did end up going over threshold on some of the early climbs. There was then almost a conscious, collective decision to save some energy in the 2nd quarter of the event which was the flattest bit.
7 or 8 guys went off up a small hill around the 40km mark (110km event). I and a few others let them go, as my plan was to go all in on the sequence of 3 very hard ups and downs late on.
I went flat out on this section (NP over threshold for about 25 mins) and caught all of them bar the top 2. One further guy passed me very late on but I was 4th over the line and I think the strategy paid off.
Ultimately I think it’s worth riding at 102-103% for a few minutes if it means staying with the group, and there’s opportunities to ease up after. But it is course dependent, and it’s worth keeping something in your legs. I think you may have to play the first hour by ear tbh!
Thanks, what you have described is pretty much how I think my event will play out. I expect there to be 300 riders of which probably only 50/60 would be interested in racing it.
Its the early climbs I am concerned with and if there are some really good climbers then I may need let them away as 5-10 mins above 110% will leave the legs cooked for later climbs. I’d agree though that riding just above threshold would be worth it to stay in a strong group.
The race is local and I know all the roads. 82 - 103km has two pretty tough climbs so that’s where I want to have plenty of juice left to ride threshold or more and I would guess there will no significant groups from that point onwards. If legs are wrecked then I think you could easily drop 10 mins over that 20km section.
So quick update on what actually transpired at the event. Numbers were lower that expected and looking through the carpark there were some good road racers I recognized so in my mind there was no possible way I could let them up the road as I may never see them again.
The first 35 mins was quite hard with NP of 265 required to stay with the front. By the top of the first small climb it had thinned down to 10 riders and further reduced to 5 rider by the end of the second climb which was 10 mins duration.
That group of 5 stayed together until 80km and we hit the next set of tough climbs. The group was down to 4 after the penultimate climb was ridden hard and heat touching 26 degrees.
Early in the last sequence of climbs we lost another so the group was down 3 riders. Towards the top of the climb at a really steep section I let the wheels go and the riders inched up the road and gapped me by 20/30 seconds at the summit.
On the long descent I road hard and eventually made contact with them again as they assumed I was gone and they were playing a bit.
3 of us made the finish line together and a car managed to mess up my sprint (completely open roads) so finished 3rd.
So in hindsight I never once looked at my garmin and just followed the wheels and held on when things got tough. Thoroughly enjoyable on local roads I love and reminds me why I took up cycling.
Gran Fondos whilst not proper road racing offer far more spectacular terrain and a different type of challenge.